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Woman wearing hearing aids climbing hill with family and laughing at a joke.

When was the last time you utilized that old ear trumpet? No? You don’t use one? Because that technology is hundreds of years old. Okay, I suppose that makes sense. Ear trumpets are a bit… archaic.

The fundamental shape of the modern hearing aid was designed in the 1950s. And that old model hearing aid tends to be the one we generally remember and picture. The trouble is that a hearing aid developed in the 1950s is just about as antiquated as an ear trumpet. We need to really advance our thinking if we want to understand how much better modern hearing aids are.

Hearing Aids, Then And Now

To be able to better comprehend just how sophisticated hearing aids have become, it’s useful to have some perspective about where they began. If we follow the history back far enough, you can likely find some type of hearing assistance device as far back as the 1500s (though, there’s no evidence that these wooden, ear-shaped artifacts were actually effective).

The “ear trumpet” was probably the first partially effective hearing assistance apparatus. This construct was shaped like, well, a long horn. The wide end pointed out and the narrow end was put into your ear. Today, you wouldn’t consider this device high tech, but back then they actually give some help.

The real revolution came when electricity was invited to the party. The hearing aid that we are familiar with was really created in the 1950s. They were quite rudimentary, relying on transistors and large, antiquated batteries to get the job done. But a hearing aid that could be easily worn and hidden began with these devices. Admittedly, modern hearing aids might share the same shape and mission as those early 1950s models–but their performance goes light years beyond what was possible 70 years ago.

Modern Features of Hearing Aids

Bottom line, modern hearing aids are technological wonders. And they’re constantly improving. Since the late twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been taking advantage of digital technologies in a number of powerful ways. Power is the first and most essential way. Modern hearing aids can pack considerably more power into a much smaller area than their earlier forerunners.

And with that increased power comes a large number of sophisticated developments:

  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss doesn’t manifest across all wavelengths and frequencies equally. Perhaps low frequency sound is hard to hear (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids can be programmed to boost only those sounds that you are unable to hear very well, resulting in a much more effective hearing aid.
  • Health monitoring: Advanced Health monitoring software is also incorporated into modern hearing aid options. For example, some hearing aids can recognize whether you’ve had a fall. There are other features that can inform you about your fitness goals like how many steps that you’ve taken.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Contemporary hearing aids can now connect to all of your Bluetooth devices. You will use this feature on a daily basis. Older hearing aids, for example, would have annoying feedback when you would try to talk on the phone. With modern hearing aids, you can simply connect to your cellphone using Bluetooth connectivity and never miss a call. This is true for a wide range of other situations regarding electronic devices. Because there isn’t any feedback or interference, it’s easier to watch TV, listen to music–you name it.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids are normally made of high tech materials, so they feel more comfortable. While these new materials enable hearing aids to be more comfortable, it also allows them to be more heavy-duty. It’s easy to see how hearing aids have advanced on the outside as well as the inside by adding long lasting and rechargeable batteries.
  • Speech recognition: For countless hearing aid users, the supreme objective of these devices is to enable communication. Some hearing aids, then, have built-in speech recognition software designed to isolate and boost voices mainly–from a crowded restaurant to an echo-y meeting hall, this feature is useful in many circumstances.

Just like rotary phones no longer represent long-distance communication, older hearing aids no longer represent what these devices are. Hearing aids aren’t what they once were. And that’s a positive thing–because now they’re even better.

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